The ultimate big list of GM-less games

18 Aug

I spent several hours coming up with the ultimate list of GM-less RPGs and story games. Right now I am not drawing any distinctions between GM-less and GM-full, one protagonist vs. many GMs, rotating GM, PvP, etc. I might also have missed out some games. Please add a comment if you know of any game not in the list. I am also not organizing the games by genre or mechanics. If you have opinions about taxonomies and organization, please let me know and I will update the page.

A note on solitaire games: I am not considering Solitaire games to be GM-less in this specific context. Right now I am compiling a list that will allow designers to explore the dynamics of GM vs GM narration and mechanics in existing games. This is the personal hitch that this list is trying to scratch. Solitaire games are based on very different procedural assumptions, so I will leave them out, although technically they are GM-less.

Here is the list!

  1. Ace of Hearts (commercial) {Wild West, Sex&Vice, Comedy}
  2. Agon (commercial) [adversarial budget] {PvP}
  3. The Alchemist
  4. Ancient Odysseys (commercial)
  5. Annalise (commercial) {Vampire}
  6. Apocalypse Girl [3 players] {Apocalypse}
  7. ArchipelagoArchipelago II; Archipelago II Techniques
  8. Atlantis [set scenes, tarots] {Apocalypse}
  9. Archangels {Genesis, Gods, Dominions}
  10. Bacchanal
  11. Beasthunters [2 players, adversarial budget] {Hunters, Tribal, PvP}
  12. Before the Flood {Gods}
  13. Behind Drawn Courtains {Vampire, Secluded Community}
  14. Believers {UFO, Norwegian Style?}
  15. Beyond the Mirror (work in progess, a sci-fi game about memories and humanity) {Science Fiction}
  16. Black Hole Girls [one trait, thematic axis trait, set scenes, fixed finale] {Japan, School, Supernatural}
  17. The Black Spot
  18. Blazing Rose
  19. Blood and Bronze
  20. Blood Red Sands (work in progress, adversarial players have a budget, commercial + draft version available) {PvP, Sword & Sorcery, Heavy Metal, Fantasy}
  21. Blowback (commercial) [adversarial budget]
  22. Breaking the Ice (commercial) [2 players]
  23. Capes (commercial) {Superheroes}
  24. City of Brass {Africa, Exploration}
  25. City of the Moon (work in progress) {Imperial Japan, Court}
  26. The Color Game
  27. The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries {Exploratory}
  28. Conquer the Horizon
  29. Contenders (commercial + free older version) {Boxing}
  30. Console Legends
  31. Cookie Jar {Crime, Intrigue, Short Form}
  32. Cosmic Patrol (commercial) {Retro Future, Pulp, Science Fiction}
  33. The Court of the Empress {Court Intrigue, Supplicant and King}
  34. Crime and Punishment {Procedural Crime}
  35. Cutthroat {PvP, Biker, Domination}
  36. Danger Mountain {Disaster Movie}
  37. Dark Spell Diceless {Fantasy}
  38. The Daughters of Verona
  39. Dawn of Worlds [world building] {Gods, Dominions, Genesis}
  40. Death’s Door
  41. Deicide [board-gamish] {Gods, War}
  42. Department Nine {Greek Myth, Fate}
  43. The Dinner Party {70’s, Spite, Suburbia, Dinner Party}
  44. Dirty Secrets (commercial) {Hardboiled, Detective Story}
  45. Discernment
  46. Divus Ex {Gods, Dominions}
  47. Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple (commercial + free older version) {Slapstick, Do Gooders}
  48. Doodlerama {Short Form, For Kids, Doodling}
  49. Doublecross [3 players] {Short Form, Spies, Noir}
  50. The Dragon vs the Gun
  51. Drama
  52. Dream Palace [] {Movie Business}
  53. The Drifter’s Escape
  54. Drowning and Falling (commercial + free version) {Fantasy, Parody}
  55. Dulse
  56. Durance
  57. The Dynasty
  58. Engle Matrix {Generic System}
  59. Engle Matrix Chtulhu Madness (derived from Engle Matrix) {Cthulhu, Horror}
  60. Engle Matrix Sherlock Holmes  (derived from Engle Matrix) {Murder Mystery, Sherlock Holmes}
  61. Ensemble {Generic System}
  62. Ergo {Generic System}
  63. Escape from Prince Charming (followed by Soemone to Love) [set acts] {Fairy Tales, Romance}
  64. Escape from Tentacle City
  65. Executive Decision {Politics, USA Contemporary}
  66. The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen (commercial) {After the Fact, Boasting, 18th Century Europe}
  67. Falling Leaves {Samurai, Choices}
  68. Fiasco (commercial) [situation builder, relationship builder] {Coen Brothers Movie, Comedy, Tragedy}
  69. Final Hour of a Storied Age
  70. Forsooth! (GameChef, 2011)
  71. Frigid Bitch [limited GM role] {Faery Tales}
  72. Fuck Youth [norwegian style] {After the Facts, Slice of Life}
  73. Fungeon {Dungeon Crawling, Fantasy}
  74. 24 Game Poems (commercial) {Short Form, Hyperfocused}
  75. G x B (Girl x Boy) (commercial) [] {Dating, Romance, Manga, High School, Supplicants and King}
  76. Game Poems Blog {Short Form, Hyperfocused}
  77. Geasa {Faeries}
  78. Geiger Counter {Horror Movie, Secluded Community}
  79. Genesis: a game of creation [world building] {Gods, Dominions, Genesis}
  80. George’s Children
  81. Ghosts {Under Siege, Intrigue, Political, Ghosts}
  82. Giving and Taking [set scenes] {Slice of Life, Freeform, Norwegian Style?}
  83. The Glass Bead Game
  84. Gnostigmata {Religion, Gnosticism, Catholicism}
  85. Gods {Genesis, Gods, Dominions}
  86. Golgotha {Gods}
  87. Great Ork Gods {Gods, Play the Monsters, Marauders, Lemmings}
  88. The Great Tournament {}
  89. Grey Ranks (commercial) {WWII, Drama, War, Coming of Age, Tragedy}
  90. Grover Cleveland [3 players] {Politicians, Spies, USA 19th century, Secrets}
  91. Gun Thief (commercial?) {Bank Robbery,Violence}
  92. Happy Birthday Robot (commercial + free older version) {For Kids}
  93. Heart of the Rose {Faeries}
  94. Hell for Leather (tarot cards game) [tarots] {Revenge, Biker, Devil Pact, Badass}
  95. Hell for Leather (tower of dice game, commercial + free older version) [dexterity skill] {Violence, Survival}
  96. Hermetic Order {Magicians, Hermetic Magic, Conspiracy, Intrigue, Secret Societies}
  97. How we came to live here (commercial) [2 players]
  98. House of Masks {Intrigue, Sorcery}
  99. Iliamna Unknown
  100. Inuma {Generic System}
  101. InSpaaace [adversarial budget, limited GM role] {Science Fiction, Comedy, Parody}
  102. Island at the Dawn of Time [world building, guess a number randomizer] {Gods, Before History, World Building}
  103. It’s Complicated (commercial)
  104. It was a Mutual Decision (commercial)
  105. It wasn’t Me [norwegian style] {Crime Investigation, After the Facts}
  106. Joe in Ten Persons {Time Travel, Choices, Parody}
  107. Kagematsu (commercial + free older version) {Gender Roles, Japan, Samurai, Love, Seduction, Supplicants and King}
  108. Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan {Ninja, Fairy tale}
  109. The Last Challenge [] {Fantasy}
  110. The Leftovers
  111. Legends of Alyria (commercial + notes on website) {Fantasy}
  112. Lexicon (wiki-based) [turn-based world building]
  113. The Logic of Tales and Dreams
  114. Lords of Titania (GameChef, 2011) {Science Fiction}
  115. Love in the time of Seid (commercial + free version) {Historical, Norse}
  116. Lucid (not the Inception movie game) {Short Form}
  117. Mare Caspium [limited GM role]
  118. The Marriage of Persephone (followup of Someone to Love, followed by One More Hour) {Underworld, Romance}
  119. Mars Colony (commercial) [2 players]
  120. Mexican Standoff
  121. Microscope (commercial) {World Building, History Building}
  122. The Mist Robed Gate (commercial)
  123. Montsegur 1244 (commercial) {Historical, Heresy, Cathars, Drama, Tragedy}
  124. MSG Executive Edition
  125. Mystery of Life [4 players] {After the Facts, Divine Judgement}
  126. Mythic GM Emulator (commercial) [scene builder, character builder, scene builder, world builder, questions make reality] {Generic System}
  127. Nicotine Girls
  128. Nordland: Returning Home {Slice of Life, Freeform, Norwegian Style?}
  129. Not Too Silly Stories (derived from Universalis) [differentiated narrative economy] {Generic System}
  130. Nowhere Road
  131. Ocean (commercial+free) [emergent conspiracy] {Amnesia, Secluded Community, Horror}
  132. Once Upon a Time (commercial) {Storytelling, Fairy Tales}
  133. One More Hour (follows The Marriage of Persephone, followed by That Oh So Little Death) [fixed finale, end-story dial] {Specialist}
  134. Ophite (part of Ron Edward’s Religious Trilogy, work in progress) [rotating scene GM provides adversity] {Gnosticism, Religion}
  135. Pantheon (commercial) {Gods, Dominions, World Building}
  136. Peerless Food Fighters [set scenes] {Japan, Manga Style, Restaurant, Comedy}
  137. A Penny for your thoughts (commercial) {Memory Loss, Associations, After the Facts}
  138. Perfect (commercial)
  139. The Perilous Realm [reduced GM role] {Mythic Middle East, Hidden Kingdom, Exploration}
  140. The Philosopher’s Stone (concept, work in progress – based on Blood Red Sands)
  141. Piledrivers&Powerbombs (commercial) {Wrestling}
  142. Pixel Bitch {Short Form}
  143. Polaris (commercial + free older version) [end-story dial, separate threads, protagonist-antagonist couples] {High Fantasy, Icy North, Knights, Tragedy, Fall, Before History}
  144. Polaris – Aurora (derived from Polaris)
  145. The Prince {Vampires}
  146. The Princess Game [several players -> one character] {Fairy Tale}
  147. Pyramid {Exploration, Egypt}
  148. That Oh So Little Death (following of One More Hour) (followup of One More Hour) [] {Sex}
  149. The Quiet Year (work in progress, yet unpublished, commercial)
  150. QuIRC [timestamp randomizer] {IRC based, Generic System}
  151. Radiance {Fairy Tales, Animist}
  152. Rajah Spiny Rat {Mythic India, Fantasy, Anthropomorphic Animals}
  153. Red Beauty (part of Ron Edward’s Religious Trilogy, work in progress) [rotating scene GM provides adversity] {Religion, Epiphany}
  154. Reel Adventures {Action Movie}
  155. Remember Tomorrow (commercial) {Cyberpunk}
  156. Ribbon Drive
  157. Rune (commercial) {Norse, Fantasy}
  158. Runeblade [3 players] {Short Form, High Fantasy}
  159. Sawmill {After the Facts, Intrigue, Maze of Traps}
  160. Scarlet Wake {Revenge, Action Movie}
  161. Schyzonaut
  162. Sea Dracula {Slapstick, Absurd}
  163. Seabird and Stella
  164. Seasons [set scenes, chains – gag chain & serious chain, revealing/resolving] {Japan, Manga Style, High School, Comedy, Supernatural}
  165. Serial Homicide Unit {Crime Investigation}
  166. Sign In Stranger [world building] {Science Fiction, Alien Contact}
  167. The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach (commercial) {Academia, Parody, American 20’s, Possession}
  168. Shock (commercial) [separate threads, protagonist-antagonist couples, matrix world building, audience is influential, lose to win later, traits as thematic axes] {Social Science Fiction}
  169. Shooting the Moon (commercial) [3 players] {Love, Seduction}
  170. Showdown (work in progress, yet unpublished) [2 players] {Rivalry}
  171. S/lay w/me (2 players, commercial) [harvest narration dice, compare scores finale] {Sword&Sorcery}
  172. Sloshed: Booze and Secrets {Slice of Life, Secrets, Anger}
  173. Soap {Soap operas, Tv Tropes}
  174. Someone to Love (followup of Escape from Prince Charming, followed by The Marriage of Persephone) {Romantic, Comedy, Underworld}
  175. Sons of Liberty (commercial) {American War of Independence, Badass, Clockwork Tech}
  176. Spectre of the Beast [world building]
  177. Spione (commercial) {Cold War, Spies, Grim Realism}
  178. Storyboard [norwegian style]
  179. Tales of the Fisherman’s Wife (in progress, yet unpublished, commercial)
  180. A Taste for Murder (commercial) [emergent conspiracy] {British Murder Mystery}
  181. Terra Nova [5 players] {Icy North, Exploration}
  182. That’s Drama (work in progress)
  183. They Became Flesh {God, Angels, Demons}
  184. Thou Art but a Warrior (Polaris hack, published, commercial) {Islamic Spain, Countdown to Apocalypse} [end-story dial, separate threads, protagonist-antagonist couples]
  185. A Thousand and One Nights (commercial) [it pays to say Yes, story within story] {Court Intrigue, Arabian Nights}
  186. A Touch of Fate [limited GM responsibility]
  187. Tramp Stamp {Tatoo Artists, Comedy}
  188. Trilogy [world building] {Fantasy}
  189. Tulip Academy’s Society for Dangerous Gentlemen (commercial)
  190. Umlaut – Game of Metal (commercial) {Heavy Metal, Band}
  191. Under the Bed (commercial)
  192. Under My Skin (commercial) [] {}
  193. Universalis (commercial) [narrative economy] {Generic System}
  194. Until we sink [norwegian style]
  195. Up Go the Heads {Football}
  196. The Valedictorian’s Death [reduced GM role, emerging conspiracy] {Crime Investigation}
  197. The Vampire {Short Form, Vampires}
  198. Vector [3 players] {Short Form, Science Fiction, Alien Movie, AI}
  199. The Venetian Tragedy (work in progress, yet unpublished) {Revenge, Tragedy}
  200. Verge [adversarial budget GM] {Post Cyberpunk}
  201. Western City (commercial) {Wild West}
  202. What to Do about Tam Lin {Faeries}
  203. While the World Ends (commercial)
  204. A World of Sand and Fire {Post-Apocalyptic, DarkSun Setting, Fantasy}
  205. World vs Hero (commercial) [2 players]
  206. Wounded
  207. WTF
  208. WWID {Short Form}
  209. Xochitlcozamalotl {Aztec, Gods, Romance, Soap}
  210. XXXXtreme Street Luge {Racing, Badass}
  211. The Year We All Died {Manga, Tragedy, Romance, Friendship, By Mail, By Wiki}
  212. Zombie Cinema {Zombies}
  213. 101 Zombies {Zombies}

Rotating GM between different sessions.

How do I define a session? It is a period of game-play that offers closure on a number of events. Therefore the GM has full control on the unfolding of those events and doesn’t have to negotiate them with other players.

  1. In a Wicked Age (GMs rotating between different chapters/story-arcs, commercial)
  2. Beowulf (In a Wicked Age hack, published, commercial)
  3. Labyrinth and Lycanthropes (commercial) [GMs rotating between different dungeon adventures] {Dungeon Crawling, Fantasy}
  4. Bliss Stage (commercial) [The group of player characters forms a resistance cell. The GM plays a central character in the cell: the authority figure, who issues orders and plans missions. If another character takes over that role, in any number of ways, then their player becomes the GM]

Suggested GM-less play

  1. Panty Explosion Perfect (commercial)
Board-Gamish GM-less play
  1. Traveller (commercial, suggested both Solo and GM-less style, but little advice given)
  2. Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition (commercial, See page 195: Playing without a DM —  This might seem to be strange advice for a Dungeon Master’s Guide, but it’s entirely possible to play D&D without a Dungeon Master. If all you’re looking for is fun and exciting combat, with no more than the barest hint of plot or purpose, a random dungeon with a random encounter deck is all you need. Someone needs to prepare the deck, and someone needs to run the monsters during the game. They doesn’t need to be the same person. All the players can decide together what the monsters do, and let the player who’s the target of an attack make that attack roll – or have the person to the left roll for the monsters. A random dungeon with no DM makes for a good way to spend a game session when your regular DM can’t play. It’s also a fun activity over a lunch hour, as long as your school or office is forgiving of a group of people rolling dice and shouting battle cries! — Pages 190-195 detail how to create random Dungeons and Encounters on the fly.)
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30 Responses to “The ultimate big list of GM-less games”

  1. postworldgames August 18, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    George’s Children
    Wounded
    (both from my site)

  2. Willow August 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Escape from Tentacle City.

  3. doubleninja August 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    Thanks guys, I added both of your games, and re-publish the update in 30m!

  4. Keeton August 20, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    This is a really cool list! Thanks for mentioning our site.

    • doubleninja August 20, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

      Thanks to you Keeton, http://www.1km1kt.net is a really great resource!
      If you have more GM-less stuff in there I will be happy to include it.

  5. Murgh Bpurn August 20, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    Cosmic Patrol?

    • doubleninja August 22, 2011 at 6:31 am #

      Thanks Murgh, added it! Do you have any reference stating that it is GM-less?

  6. storyshtick August 21, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    Thanks for putting this awesome resource together! I’m going to be referring to this a lot and searching for new games here.

    Have you heard the term “Peer RPG”? It’s a replacement term for GMless and I’m trying to get it to catch on because a) GMless implies a lack of a GM, and b) It’s a more accurate description of most of these games – you’re acting as peers. As someone who has clearly done a lot of research on these games, I’d love to hear your opinion on this term.

    • doubleninja August 22, 2011 at 6:00 am #

      I didn’t hear it, but it makes sense. Would that be equivalent to GM-full? Like.. everybody is a GM. I still have to identify a taxonomy. I am more in the data-gathering phase right now.

      I can see that there are many different dimensions to organize the games according to narrative authority, adversity generation, etc.. but I am just not there yet. Do you have any interesting resources on this topic?

      • storyshtick August 22, 2011 at 6:12 am #

        I think Peer RPG would cover the whole category currently referred to as “GMless” and it nicely wouldn’t cover solo games (no peers!). I think “GM-full” is a similar reaction, not its own category. In my experience, folks say GM-full because they want it to sound like there isn’t anything missing, not to denote a different style of play. For my money, Peer RPG is a better term for that – there’s no GM and nothing is missing. I think the question it addresses is one of terminology and not taxonomy.

        I don’t know of any other resource (you may have the only one here!), but there definitely are differences within the Peer RPG list and I think what you’re doing here is good first step in establishing that taxonomy.

      • storyshtick August 22, 2011 at 6:28 am #

        How do I contact you off-blog?

      • doubleninja August 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

        Hi Scott, I just sent you an email. Check the SPAM box 😉

  7. grimachu August 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    Ace of Hearts – http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=91389

  8. Bill Burdick August 29, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    Not sure if you saw my response to your question on The Philosopher’s Stone, but it’s here: http://this-statement-is-false.blogspot.com/2011/08/quick-update-on-philosophers-stone.html The game is now called Death of the Vele and the website is here: https://sites.google.com/site/deathofthevele/

    • doubleninja August 30, 2011 at 10:28 am #

      Hi Bill, I am afraid I missed it, where did you write it? Got the link, I’ll add it to the list!

      • Bill Burdick August 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

        Here, http://this-statement-is-false.blogspot.com/2010/04/philosophers-stone.html right after your comment.

      • doubleninja August 30, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

        Got it! I was expecting an automatic notification from the blog.. so I forgot. maybe it doesn’t work like that on blogspot? I am looking forward to play it. I was also fascinated by the boardgamey aspects of BRS.. but I found the draft of BRS a hard read.

      • Bill Burdick August 30, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

        I hope Vele is easy read — I’ve been trying to make it easier, but I’m not done and there are a few errors carried over from previous versions (the character “Doulan” is referred to but is not presented, for instance).

        Vele still owes a LOT to BRS; story and act creation are quite boardgamey, but Vele strives to feel really like an RPG, despite being collaborative, so I think the majority of play does not feel like a board game.

      • doubleninja August 30, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

        I like the boardgamey aspect of creating a fair playground and mechanics. I like the scene framing and the narrative of RPGs. It will be interesting to read how you are making them work together. Have you run many games with it?

      • Bill Burdick August 30, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

        It’s been in play testing roughly weekly since May, last year. I don’t know how many play sessions that is, but it’s a fair amount ;). Settings we’ve done: Jewish colonists on an alien planet peopled by ancestor worshiping, intelligent insects (really), medieval, post apocalyptic, space opera, old west-steampunk, Victorian.

      • doubleninja August 30, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

        Awesome! Do you find that it sustains well long-term play? Is there any trouble doing that? I am asking because I am studying several GM-less games, but most of them seems to focus on a fixed act sequence and a finale, rather than a long-term campaign.

        BTW, this guy is looking for something that might map well to Vele: http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=14903&page=1#Item_40

      • Bill Burdick August 31, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

        Yes, I noticed this about Universalis — it seemed difficult to support extended play in it and I really wanted to support longer stories.

        To try to support long stories, I started by combining FATE, Universalis, and PDQ, using PDQ/FATE and the GM/player structure to support long stories and doing Universalis at the start and end of each session. FATE’s aspects and PDQ’s qualities lined up well with what went on in the Universalis sessions. This worked really well, by the way; the campaign lasted over a year and the players loved being able to mess with the NPCs, etc.

        When Ralph came out with BRS, I got very excited about moving what we were doing to BRS, since it has numeric traits (it’s a very elegant refinement of Universalis). Vele is what came out of that effort — it is still strongly based on BRS, but it’s quite different from it, now.

        Sustainable (campaign) play is the CORE design goal of Vele and it works great! A story might take 10-20 sessions to play out, depending on how many players you have (kind of like an RPG module).

        At this point in the development, I’m adding in a bit more story structure and that seems to be working out well. I think this might be the final major change before I publish it.

  9. terje October 27, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    Good job with the list, its a great resource! 🙂

    De Profundis (Commercial, mail correspondence, lovecraftian horror)

    Ars Magica allows for rotating GM between sessions

    • Stelio Passaris January 11, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      🙂 There are getting on to 400 GM-less RPGs listed on RPG Geek:
      http://rpggeek.com/rpgmechanic/2089/gm-less-no-gamemaster-needed-to-play

      • doubleninja January 31, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

        nice one. is there a strong overlap with this list or is it mostly different material as far as you know?

      • Stelio Passaris January 31, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

        As you’d expect, there is indeed a lot of overlap (the more famous titles will be on both lists certainly, and many of the more obscure ones are too). But there are definitely titles listed here that aren’t yet on RPG Geek (we had someone working on filling those gaps by going through your list; I’ll have to check to see if they’re still actively doing that).

        I should also note that the RPG Geek database includes gamebooks which are, of course, GM-less. For a sense of scale, there are just over 100 separate gamebook franchises listed as RPGs. So we’re still looking at nearly 300 RPGs that are a mix of tabletop and LARP (and GM-less LARPs are pretty rare, mostly of the “RPG Poem” variety, so that’s mostly tabletop).

  10. Henrik April 4, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Not GM less, but there is opportunity for changing of the GM-role within the game:
    Control: The Game of Absolute Corruption

    • Henrik April 4, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      Also carry. A Game about War

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  1. The ultimate big list of GM-less games UPDATE « Doubleninja's Blog - August 18, 2011

    […] big list of GM-less games grew up to an unbelievable 113 entries. You might wish to check it out. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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